A senior official in Gibraltar has denied reports by Iranian media that an oil tanker seized by Britain’s Royal Navy is ready to be released, Associated Press has reported. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the report written by the semi-official media outlet of the Iranian government, Fars News Agency, which claimed that the tanker was due to leave on Tuesday night, was “untrue”.
The Iranian super-tanker, Grace 1, was seized by the British in early July on the grounds that it was transporting oil to Syria, which would have been a violation of the sanctions imposed on Iran by the EU and the US. In response, Iran captured the British tanker Stena Impero as it was passing through the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed that it was not taken in revenge, but because it violated international maritime laws by entering Iran’s territorial waters.
Neither Britain nor Iran have agreed to release each other’s vessels, with the former having refused earlier Iranian proposals to make a swap. Meanwhile, the government of Gibraltar, which is a British Overseas Territory, has stated that it is seeking to “de-escalate” the situation over the captured tanker.
The report released by Iranian media and the revelation of its dishonesty over the status of the oil tanker comes at a time when relations between certain European capitals and Tehran have deteriorated drastically due to the gradual breakdown of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, its seizure of tankers in the Gulf, and the subsequent re-imposition of sanctions on Iran by the US and EU.
Gibraltar’s Supreme Court is scheduled to hold a hearing on the case of the Iranian tanker tomorrow.